(If this post had a subhead, it would be: Dr. Strangehawking, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Aliens.)

The Discovery Channel’s new series Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking debuted last night with an episode about Aliens. I’ll plead guilty to not having seen it—the clips appearing on Discovery’s web site seemed full of both CGI goodness and speculation relatively unencumbered by annoying facts, so I’m not sure what to make of it. But one of the claims that Hawking apparently makes in the program has drawn considerable media attention, as in this BBC story:

Aliens almost certainly exist but humans should avoid making contact, Professor Stephen Hawking has warned.

In a series for the Discovery Channel the renowned astrophysicist said it was “perfectly rational” to assume intelligent life exists elsewhere.

But he warned that aliens might simply raid Earth for resources, then move on.

Prof Hawking thinks that, rather than actively trying to communicate with extra-terrestrials, humans should do everything possible to avoid contact.

He explained: “We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet.”

Hawking’s concern seems to be the Independence Day scenario: that spacefaring species might roam the universe in gigantic motherships, pillaging planets for their resource wealth and exterminating those worlds’ inhabitants in the process. (So for the rumored sequel to Independence Day in the works, does this mean Hawking could take Jeff Goldblum’s role? Or Brent Spiner’s?)

Naturally, Stephen Hawking’s speculations on most matters are probably far more likely to be right than are mine, but in this case I’ll argue that he’s most probably wrong about alien conquests of this sort being a meaningful danger. First, though, I have to make two asides. Read Full Article